'Glee's' Kevin McHale on His 'Glee Project' Return: 'I'm Going to Go All Simon Cowell'

The actor behind Artie Abrams returns to the Oxygen reality competition to oversee a new theme, "Adaptability."
Tyler Golden/Oxygen
"The Glee Project" mentor Kevin McHale, left, with casting director Robert Ulrich

Glee's Kevin McHale makes his return to Oxygen's The Glee Project on Tuesday and wanted to bring traces of another Fox personality with him during his stint as a mentor: The X Factor's sharp-tounged judge Simon Cowell.

McHale, whose 1:1 winner Lindsay Pearce went on to win a two-episode arc on the Fox series last season, tells The Hollywood Reporter that his plan was to be more critical this season when he checked in to offer his Glee wisdom about "Adaptability" to the remaining Oxygen contenders vying for a seven-episode arc.

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"Last season I tried to be a little more honest with [the contestants] because it was getting down to the finals and I wanted to really push them, but this time I told [Glee co-creator and Glee Project EP] Ryan Murphy, 'Look, I’m going to go all Simon Cowell on them," McHale tells THR.

However, not all went according to the actor behind Artie Abrams' plan when the new theme -- "Adaptability" -- threw the remaining 10 Glee Project kids a real curveball with their homework assignment. As per Glee Project rules, the kids receive their weekly song -- this time it's Alanis Morrissette's "You Oughta Know" -- and divide the lyrics up with each taking a particular line or verse to be judged by the weekly mentor.

"The curveball is they now have to -- without looking back at the lyrics -- sing the entire song to me," McHale previews. "They had to come up one by one and perform the song for us."

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Because of the challenging nature of this week's theme, McHale says he quickly abandoned his plan to go all Simon on the group. "I wanted to be like, 'OK, I can be the mean one,' but that didn’t happen because the assignment was just so difficult. The fact that they could actually even get through it was just incredible all on its own without me having to be mean and blunt."

"Adaptability is crucial to working on Glee because everyday is adapting to something," McHale says. "Because we’re doing a different genre of music, doing a different type of scene with a different scene partner, recording and dance rehearsals … no day is like another."

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As for who ultimately won the one-on-one time with McHale, the actor notes that he picked the contestant who was the "most well-rounded."

"I chose the one who I saw the most potential in, who really just could cross off the most things on the assignment," he says of the field he described as being "wide open." "I was astonished because I just kept imagining myself in their shoes and falling apart."

The Glee Project airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. on Oxygen. Who's your frontrunner? Hit the comments with your thoughts.

Email: Lesley.Goldberg@thr.com; Twitter: @Snoodit